Myanmar Junta Court Rejects Aung San Suu Kyi Objection on Evidence

A court in Myanmar on Tuesday rejected objections by the defense team of deposed country leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the introduction of prosecution evidence against her on a sedition charge, arguing that it failed to follow established judicial procedure, a member of her legal team said.

The former state counselor, ousted and arrested with other top political leaders during the coup by the Myanmar military on Feb. 1 faces seven charges, including sedition, which her lawyers say are trumped-up offenses to discredit her. Ex-president Win Myint also has been charged with sedition.

Military forces overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government based on accusations that November 2020 landslide elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) were marred by voter fraud. The junta, which has not produced evidence of fraudulent elections, has led a violent crackdown on protesters opposed to its rule.

The junta has charged Aung San Suu Kyi with seven criminal offenses for allegedly violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and for corruption, sedition, violation of the Telecommunications Law, possession of unlicensed walkie-talkie radios, and two violations of protocols set up to contain the spread of coronavirus.

During the hearing, the prosecution submitted as evidence a letter dated June 23 from the Union Election Commission to the Naypyidaw Region Council. But Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers objected because they said that the letter was not included on a list of evidence to be submitted to the court when the case was filed. The court rejected the objection and allowed the hearing to proceed.

In all, the plaintiff and five witnesses for the prosecution appeared at the hearing regarding the charges under and Section 505(b) of the Penal Code covering the sedition charge, and Section 25 of the National Disaster Management Law for the violation of COVID-19 prevention measures.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s defense team requested an adjournment of the examination of prosecution witness scheduled to appear Tuesday at a special trial court set up in Naypyidaw to hear cases against her because lawyers said they had to wait for a decision from the higher court regarding an amendment on the charge of sedition, also known as incitement, said lawyer Min Min Soe.

“If the defendant's amendment is upheld by the Supreme Court, then the testimonies heard today will mean nothing,” Min Min Soe said. “Therefore, we asked the court to make an appropriate decision on this case, but the court rejected our request for an adjournment and decided to go ahead with the testimony from prosecution witness Soe Soe Shwe.”

Min Min Soe said the evidence presented by the prosecution on Tuesday was a list of names of the members of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee. It was not immediately clear how that list would be used in court.

At a previous hearing on June 29, the court dismissed an objection by the legal defense team to documents presented by military prosecutors as evidence in her trial on the sedition charge, though her attorneys pledged to fight the decision in an appeal.

The incitement charge under Section 505(b) carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.

Before her trial on Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi met with her lawyers for about 30 minutes.

Min Min Soe said the deposed 76-year-old leader appeared healthy and that reports on social media that she had contracted the COVID-19 virus were not true.

“She has had her vaccinations against COVID,” the lawyer said, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi requested that Myanmar citizens help each other by heeding pandemic restrictions."

Aung San Suu Kyi has been kept under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw since the Feb. 1 coup. Her hearings initially were held via videoconference beginning on Feb. 16.

The military regime converted a building in Naypyidaw into a special closed court for Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s hearings now held in person every Monday and Tuesday since June 14.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.